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The science of second chances - How to use your head with a little bit of heart

Posted on March 13 2016

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When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. Maya Angelou

If there is one lesson that I can say has made the biggest impact in my life, it is the quote above. Character has always been so fascinating to me. Why are people the way that they are? Why do they do the things that they do? I learned pretty early on in life that change is never easy. I remember the story of the scorpion and the turtle.

A scorpion, being a very poor swimmer, asked a turtle to carry him on his back across a river. “Are you mad?” exclaimed the turtle. “You’ll sting me while I’m swimming and I’ll drown.”

“My dear turtle,” laughed the scorpion, “if I were to sting you, you would drown and I would go down with you. Now where is the logic in that?”

“You’re right!” cried the turtle. “Hop on!” The scorpion climbed aboard and halfway across the river gave the turtle a mighty sting. As they both sank to the bottom, the turtle resignedly said:

“Do you mind if I ask you something? You said there’d be no logic in your stinging me. Why did you do it?”

“It has nothing to do with logic,” the drowning scorpion sadly replied. “It’s just my character.”

Can people change? It is incredibly difficult to change but not impossible. Think about how many times you’ve dieted and failed; vowed to stop smoking or drinking and failed. Change is a battle and it is not for the faint of heart. It requires strength and most importantly, resilience. For most people, change doesn’t and cannot happen over night. You have to be able to pick yourself back up and try again and again and again.

It is also important to note that in spite of how many times you tell a person that they need to change, they actually have to recognize on their own that there is something that needs changing within them. You can’t force someone to seek healing if they don’t believe they’re sick.

Do people deserve second chances? My motto on this is, be kind not stupid. If I invited someone into my home and they stole something from me but came back, admitted their wrong doing and asked for forgiveness, I could forgive them. I could even make them some tea while they sobbed about their transgressions. What I won’t do is leave a Rolex on the table while making tea in the other room. Be quick to forgive but slow to forget. This doesn’t mean holding a grudge but rather taking a mental note. Everyone deserves a second chance but trust must be re-earned.

If a client cheats you out of money you’ve earned, they are dishonest at their core. If you work with them again, they’ll do it again. If a co-worker throws you under the bus, they will never have your best interest at heart. If a boss undermines you, you will never be able to count on them. If someone constantly speaks badly of others to you, they will speak badly of you to others.

We don’t have to dig that deep to discover the character of others. The truth is never that far from the surface, we just have to pay attention. When someone nonchalantly says to you “ I’m a little selfish” or my favorite, “I’m crazy”, don’t laugh it off as just words. It’s also equally important to pay attention to people’s actions. How someone treats the waiter / waitress at a restaurant; the way they fight with others –some people fight so dirty that there’s no coming back from where they take things.

When it comes to second chances, it will invariably come down to the character of the person you’re dealing with. Keep in mind that people will always show you who they are, believe them.

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